The US government and legislators are endangering women by enshrining gender identity policy into law

Image: @GoddessEnergyXX

On August 22, women from various feminist organizations gathered outside the Washington Corrections Center for Women (WCCW) to protest the state’s inhumane policy of housing violent male convicts in women’s prison cells.

The protest was organized as part of the Sovereign Women Speak conference, endorsed by a coalition of feminist organizations including Women’s Liberation Front (WoLF), Women’s Human Rights Campaign (WHRC) USA, Save Women’s Sports, and Women’s Liberation Radio News (WLRN). A statement on the Sovereign Women Speak website reads, “We cannot stand by while women are raped in their own prisons by men claiming to be women.”

During the protest, women held signs reading, “Keep Prisons Single Sex” “No Males in Female Prisons,” and “Gender Ideology Extremism Hurts Women.” WoLF Legal Director Lauren Adams spoke about the impact of gender identity policies on the safety and well-being of incarcerated women, saying, “I’ve spoken to women inside with years of sobriety, or long-term recovery from self-harm and eating disorders, who have relapsed. One woman with a history of suicide attempts broke her own hand beating on the door, and asked to be placed in solitary, rather than sleep a single night next to her new male cellmate.”

This year, the Biden administration (spurred on by gender identity ideologues) launched an attack on the rights of women and children, claiming an intent to combat “discrimination.” On January 20, President Biden issued an executive order dismantling the sex-based rights and protections of women and girls, conflating gender identity with sexual orientation, despite the obvious contradiction between sex denialism and same-sex attraction. “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports,” according to the order, a statement which conveniently downplays women’s concerns about adult men competing against women or entering spaces of undress, and uses children as a shield for male predators.

In June, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) followed suit and published a statement to their website confirming that Title IX — a 1972 amendment prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in education — will also apply to “discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”

In recent months, several states have drafted bills to challenge the federal government’s attempts to enshrine gender ideology into national policies.

The state of Arkansas attempted to ban the use of drugs euphemistically referred to as “puberty blockers” on minors, as well as the administration of sex hormones and surgeries for those under the age of 18, but in July a federal judge issued a temporary block to the bans. Tennessee tried to preserve sex distinctions for restrooms, both in public and in schools, however, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) filed a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee in an attempt to overturn such sex-based stipulations and involved, as part of their evidence, a six-year-old child who was socially transitioned at the age of four. Texas has introduced over a dozen bills aimed at preventing medicalization of gender non-conforming youth, prohibiting individuals from changing their sex on government-issued identification documents, and upholding sex distinctions for sports and facilities such as restrooms and locker rooms. In September, Idaho became the latest state to join 19 other Republican-led states in suing the Biden Administration over gender identity policies.

Despite growing opposition to gender identity policy and legislation, lawmakers continue to press forward in denying sex, thereby destroying women’s rights, and in the most extreme cases, are locking women in prison cells with convicted killers and sex offenders.

On June 30, NBC reported that the state of New Jersey had implemented a sex self-identification policy for inmates, meaning that men convicted of violent crimes are now able to identify into women’s prisons. The new policy will recognize “self-attestations,” meaning that men do not have to be diagnosed with gender dysphoria, have “sex-reassignment surgery,” or take cross-sex hormones in order to be transferred to a women’s prison. The decision was revealed just weeks after Governor Phil Murphy announced on June 7 that the state would be shutting down New Jersey’s Edna Mahan women’s correctional facility, an institution that has been mired in controversy over the abuse of female inmates.

The prison has a decades-long history of  physical and sexual abuse allegations, perpetrated by mostly male prison guards against incarcerated women. A 1999 lawsuit filed by two female inmates cited at least 10 instances of sexual abuse and claimed that the Edna Mahan administration had been aware of sexual misconduct perpetrated by male staff dating back to 1990: “deposition testimony from guards and their immediate supervisors shows the administrative hierarchy of EMCFW knew of up to a total of 10 ‘familiarity’ or ‘contact’ incidents over a period of time dating back to 1990.” However, their case was dismissed, and ruling on an appeal, a majority of federal appellate judges of the US Court of Appeals agreed with that dismissal, finding that administrators were not legally responsible for the sexual assaults perpetrated by male personnel, despite acknowledging that EMCFW staff had attempted to cover up reports of these assaults. One judge dissented with the majority view, saying, “the record indisputably shows at least five prior sexual relationships between guards and inmates, two of which continued after the inmates were released, and even defendants concede that prison inmates cannot legally consent to sex with their prison guards.”

In 2020, an internal investigation conducted by the Department of Justice found a systemic pattern of sexual abuse at New Jersey’s Edna Mahan facility. The DOJ report stated that the sexual abuse at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women (EMCFW) was “an open secret”, and that the corrections department “fails to keep prisoners at Edna Mahan safe from sexual abuse by staff,” and “Edna Mahan suffers from a ‘culture of acceptance’ of sexual abuse, which has enabled abuse to persist despite years of notice and efforts towards change at the state level.” Over the course of the investigation, federal officers reviewed 70 reports of staff-on-prisoner sexual harassment and abuse over “several years” and called the cases “varied and disturbing.”

Despite the investigation substantiating claims of systemic abuse at Edna Mahan, no direct action was taken by government officials until, in January of this year, a trans-identified male — “Rae” Raequan Rollins — housed in the women’s facility was beaten by guards alongside several other women, including Desiree DaSilva, who sustained a fractured orbital bone. Following the incident, several mainstream media outlets publicized the story, highlighting the abuse against Rollins while treating the ongoing violence against female inmates as ancillary. Trimeka Rollins, Raequan’s mother, told The New York Times that he had been shuffled from one men’s prison to another before transferring to Edna Mahan, only to find that conditions at the women’s prison were worse than at facilities for male offenders. In response to the attack on Rollins, 31 guards were suspended within the month — including the prison’s top administrator, 22 correctional officers and nine supervisors — and a formal investigation was opened. NJ Spotlight News reports of upcoming reforms, including body cameras for prison staff, an overhaul of policies, and employee training sessions.

DOC spokeswoman Liz Velez told CNN, “From first learning of the January 11 incident at Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, the Department took swift action to suspend 34 staff members and immediately sought the assistance of the Office of the Attorney General and the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the conduct for potential criminal prosecution.”

Early July, video footage was released depicting over 90 minutes of graphic recordings of the January 11 beatings, and local news outlets reported that an internal investigation found that male staff were present at strip searches.

To reiterate, ongoing abuse perpetrated against female inmates went ignored for decades, and a DoJ report highlighting systemic abuse at Edna Mahan was met with verbal consternation but no direct action, but following an incident wherein a trans-identified male was harmed, dozens of staff were suspended and the facility was ordered to close down. Rollins was transferred to a women’s facility in another state: Pennsylvania’s State Correctional Institution at Muncy. The women brutalized by prison guards have not yet been transferred out, and New Jersey legislators have instituted a state-wide policy allowing men to self-identify into women’s prisons while simultaneously promising to shutter the only women’s correctional facility in the state.

In removing sex-based protections for incarcerated women, New Jersey has joined the state of California in prioritizing men’s self-declared identities over women’s realities. On January 1, legislation drafted by Democrat Senator Scott Wiener and backed by Governor Gavin Newsom was implemented, allowing men to self-identify into women’s prisons. Since then, at least 261 requests have been filed for transfers, the majority from male convicts.

Among those biological males who have already been transferred into a women’s prison are Jessica Marie Hann (né Jason Michael), a trans-identified male who beat his two infant children to death. Hann had been sentenced to death; however, the death sentence is currently suspended in the state of California, and following a 2019 “sex-reassignment surgery,” funded by taxpayers, Hann was transferred to the Central California Women’s Facility in Chowchilla. He is currently incarcerated in the same facility as the mother of the infants he murdered.

Another known murderer currently housed with women inmates is Dana Rivers (né David Warfield), who will go to trial in October for the 2016 triple homicide of a lesbian couple, Patricia Wright and Charlotte Reed, and their adopted son, Benny Diambu-Wright. Rivers had previously been an active participant in “Camp Trans,” an organization that campaigned against the women-only and lesbian-centered Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (Michfest), of which Reed and Wright were both regular attendees.

A recent investigation by WoLF revealed that women’s prisons in California have begun dispensing condoms to inmates in preparation for the influx of male offenders. According to a statement from the radical feminist organization: “The new resources are a tacit admission by officials that women should expect to be raped when housed in prison with men, where all sex is considered non-consensual by default within the system.” The statement also details the appearance of new posters in medical rooms outlining options available for “pregnant people.” To add insult to injury, an anonymous source confided to a WoLF representative that part of the reason for a delay in the transfer of trans-identified males is the implementation of a training course male inmates must first complete, which includes topics such as “trans fears of being housed with cis.”

At a meeting for inmates of Central California Women’s Facility, one woman delivered a statement, saying:

“When we reach out for help we get nothing… There has been an assault on a woman and we still are silenced. Does anyone care that we are being forced to house with 6’2, 250+ lbs men with penises that are here for brutally raping women? We have been warned by the officials in this prison, more are coming with worse charges. If we say we are in fear, we are the ones locked up.”

In February 2020, a Jane Doe inmate at the Logan Correctional Center in central Illinois filed a lawsuit stating that she had been sexually abused by trans-identifying inmate Janiah Monroe, who was transferred into her housing unit the year prior. According to the lawsuit, the victim claims she was coerced by a supervisory officer into denying the attack occurred, then punished for filing a “false” complaint under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Alan Mills, who leads the Uptown People’s Law Center and represented Monroe, told a local news outlet, “Transphobia exists everywhere, both out here on the street and in prison, so it’s not surprising that there are some people who feel uncomfortable with her presence in a women’s prison.”

In April, lawmakers in Illinois passed a bill allowing men convicted of murder, arson, and sex offenses — including against minors — to legally change their identities. According to the The State Journal-Register, “The bill crafts exceptions to the Arsonist Registration Act, the Sex Offender Registration Act, and the Murderer and Violent Offender Against Youth Registration Act for persons who want to change their name due to… gender-related identity.”

Several other US states, including Washington, also allow convicted male offenders to be transferred into women’s prisons. In March, an anonymous whistleblower told a local radio program that a convicted sex offender placed in a women’s institution immediately raped a female inmate, and that another man who had been transferred was a serial killer who had targeted trafficked women.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is currently involved in litigation in Washington, DC on behalf of a trans-identified male named Sunday Hinton, which they hope will set a legal precedent for sex self-identification and further transfers among inmates in the district.

The US prison system has been an ongoing nightmare for women across the nation, facilitated by the presence of men tasked with guarding female prisoners who instead beat, rape, and inhumanely strip search women assigned to their care. While researching instances of such human rights violations, I discovered examples of systemic abuse in nearly every US state. Incarcerated women are very often victims of male violence prior to their convictions, and continue to be abused by male prison staff, including being sex trafficked.

A 1999 report by Amnesty International, titled Not Part of Her Sentence: Violations of the Human Rights of Women in Custody, reads:

“Many women in prisons and jails in the USA are victims of rape and other forms of sexual abuse including, commonly, sexually offensive language; male staff touching female inmates’ breasts and genitals while conducting searches and male staff watching women while they are naked… Under international law, rape of an inmate by staff is considered to be torture. Other forms of sexual abuse violate the internationally recognized prohibition on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Similarly, a 1996 study by Human Rights Watch, entitled, Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons, states:

“Our findings indicate that being a woman prisoner in U.S. state prisons can be a terrifying experience. If you are sexually abused, you cannot escape from your abuser. Grievance or investigatory procedures, where they exist, are often ineffectual, and correctional employees continue to engage in abuse because they believe they will rarely be held accountable, administratively or criminally… Many women are incarcerated in the 170 state prison facilities for women across the United States and, more often than not, they are guarded by men.We found that male correctional employees have vaginally, anally, and orally raped female prisoners and sexually assaulted and abused them.”

In an effort to address this ongoing issue, the state of Nevada attempted (unsuccessfully) to ban men from holding supervisory positions at Southern Nevada Women’s Correctional Facility (SNWCF) in 2011. The WCF had become an “uninhibited sexual environment” wherein male guards blackmailed women into performing sexual favors for various rewards, including contraband. Yet the Court of Appeals determined that the Nevada Department of Corrections’s refusal to hire men for lieutenant positions was a form of discrimination.

The solution to protecting women from human rights violations is not to add more men to women’s facilities, but to implement stronger sex-based protections for vulnerable women inmates. The fight against the hostile takeover of women-only spaces is detracting energy and resources away from confronting existing violations of women’s human rights.

Currently, the US Department of Justice is reviewing a Trump-era policy regarding gender identity and prison facility placement in response to the case of Minnesota mosque bomber Michael Hari, who began identifying as “Emily” after sentencing and is requesting to be incarcerated for his 53 year sentence in a women’s prison. During the Obama administration, the Bureau of Prisons’ Transgender Executive Council issued a Transgender Offender Manual recommending “housing by gender identity when appropriate.” The Trump administration altered this language to require the council to “use biological sex as the initial determination.” Presumably, the bureau’s Transgender Executive Council is seeking to remove this limitation, which is implied by comments made by an anonymous council member reported by CNN, who said that the bureau is committed to providing all inmates with a safe and humane environment, “including gender-affirming housing where appropriate.”  The council consists of 10 people, and one representative spoke with the press only on the condition of anonymity.

“Gender identity” is being quickly and quietly enshrined in US law before women have been recognized as deserving of equal rights in the Constitution. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), originally written by Alice Paul and Crystal Eastman and introduced in Congress in 1923, has been stalled for nearly a century. It simply states:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Sec. 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Sec. 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

The relative swiftness with which the US government has taken up the cause of protecting a self-declared “gender identity” over the best interests of women and girls, while the ERA languished for decades, is a powerful juxtaposition that illustrates how gender identity ideology upholds male power and entitlement over the material reality, rights, and safety of women.

Genevieve Gluck

Genevieve Gluck is a writer and advocate for women's sex-based rights and creator of Women's Voices, an audio library dedicated to bringing awareness to feminist texts and speeches.